Please read Matthew 4:13-25, Mark 1:14-34
& Luke 4:31 – 5:11
There are many new starts throughout the scriptures and throughout life. God does not change, nor does His word, but everything on this earth is constantly changing. With each change comes an ending of what was and a beginning of something new. Yochanan the Immerser’s ministry had come to an abrupt end with his imprisonment. The baton of reform which he had been assigned to carry in preparation for the coming of Messiah had now been totally handed over to that Messiah, the Lamb of God.
Some of Yochanan’s most astute talmidim had responded to his exhortation and left him to follow the Messiah during the in-between time when they were both ministering to the people. To mark the end of Yochanan’s ministry, and in honour of all that he had done, Yeshua had sent these talmidim back to their homes and families who were no doubt worried about them after what had been done to Yochanan.
Now it was time for a new beginning. A beginning in this next season of Yeshua’s ministry. He had left Nazareth before, to seek out Yochanan and the immersion that would mark the beginning of His ministry. Now He was moving out of Nazareth to enter the next phase of that ministry, during which He would choose twelve of His Jewish talmidim for the foundation of this reformation. His leaving Nazareth was via Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) for the celebration of the one day pilgrimage festival of Shavu‘ot (Feast of Weeks) in fulfilment of Torah, but now he came back north to Capernaum to establish a new home.
Matthew, continuing in his theme of Yeshua’s life fulfilling the words of the Jewish prophets, records:
And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.“
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:13-17 NKJV
We are all familiar with Isaiah’s prophesy in verse six of chapter nine, and how this is fulfilled in Christ:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder; and His name will be called Wonderful, Councillor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
Now Matthew is taking us just a few verses back in the same chapter:
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali… By the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:1b-2 NKJV
Isaiah wrote this prophesy over 700 years before, and gave a description that enabled Matthew, and others who studied the Jewish prophets, to locate where he was talking about all these centuries later when the locations and names of towns had changed.
The light (John 1:4-5,9) shone first in Nazareth (in the land of Zebulun) where Yeshua grew up, and then moved to Capernaum (in the land of Naphtali) on that ancient road and major trading route called the ‘Way of the Sea’ which ran from the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt all the way through Capernaum to Damascus in Syria.
Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. Luke 4:31-32 NKJV
Yeshua now came and dwelt (κατῴκησεν), set up house, in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13a). κατῴκησεν (katōkēsen) comes from the Greek kata (meaning down as in permanent) and oikeo (to live in a home); so literally means to house permanently. It is translated as: to dwell in, settle down as a permanent resident, be established in (permanently), in a permanent dwelling place as one’s personal residence. The change of abode seems to have included Yeshua’s whole family, except His sisters who were now married and living with their husbands in Nazareth, as in Matthew 13:56 the people in Nazareth say: “And aren’t all his sisters here with us?” (1)
The meaning of ‘Capernaum’ is “city of Nahum”, or “village of consolation”. When Yeshua moved there He brought hope to a part of God’s Land that was in desperate need of it. The dark basalt stones around the Sea of Galilee that were typically used in building were a tangible expression of the darkness felt by this region under constant threat of invasion. (2) This land had been the first to suffer in the beginning of those wars which finally resulted in the captivity of the ten northern tribes of Israel. The people of this district were smitten by Benhadad (1 Kings 15:20), and afterwards by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29 ; 1 Chronicles 5:26), until the total invasion of the Northern Kingdom and capture of their capitol city Samaria by King Shalmaneser of Assyria in 722 BC. The region is called Galilee of the Gentiles because it was inhabited by Egyptians, Arabians, and Phoenicians, as well as by Hebrews. (3) Yeshua – the son of David – was beginning His restoration of the Davidic kingdom (and His transformation of it into the kingdom of heaven) at ground zero where God’s covenant judgment had first fallen seven centuries before. (4)
Yeshua taught in the Capernaum synagogue every Shabbat
“…and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” Luke 4:31b – 32.
Each Shabbat (Saturday morning) Yeshua participated in the synagogue service with the rest of the Jewish community in Capernaum. His reading of the Hebrew Scriptures was confident and accurate, He spoke both scripture and His teaching on it with an authority they had not heard before.
David N. Bivin writes of the task of reading the Hebrew Scriptures in a synagogue during this time:
In Jesus’ day reading Hebrew was not an easy task—the language did not include vowel signs. These signs were only invented beginning in the sixth century A.D. A Hebrew word could often be vocalized in more than one way, allowing it to have more than one meaning. The way one vocalized a word affected the meaning of the text. To read correctly, one had to know which vowels to combine with the consonants of each word.
To read Scripture publicly was even more difficult. No errors, no matter how minor, were permitted. If a reader made a mistake, he had to back up and repeat the text correctly. There were myriad ancient traditions concerning how to vocalize the words of the sacred text, and no one dared read publicly without careful preparation. (6)
…on Shabbat Yeshua went into the synagogue and began teaching. They were amazed at the way he taught, for he did not instruct them like the Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself. Mark 1:21b-22 CJB
The Torah-teachers based their authority on the words of others. “The great sage …. has said this…… but then another sage ….. countered with this……, so we can conclude that…..” Yeshua had authority in Himself. He had no need to quote others to try to prove his point, He simply declared the Word of God with the authority of one who has the meaning and intent of that word within Himself.
Calling Simon Peter and Andrew,
then James and John
Having sent all His talmidim back to their homes after news came of Yochanan’s imprisonment by Herod Antipas, it was now time for Yeshua to start building His team again. There would be many who would follow Him, and twelve whom He specifically called to be part of the foundation of His reformation of Judaism in establishing the kingdom of heaven on earth. Judaism had been built on the foundation of the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel), who had become twelve tribes, even so this reformation of Judaism would be built on a foundation of twelve men. These Jews understood the significance of the number 12. As Yeshua now chooses his Talmidim we notice a departure from the norm of the time. Instead of waiting for them to come to him, he goes to them. Instead of intensive questioning to test their intellectual rigour, a simple invitation to come:
As Yeshua walked by Lake Kinneret, he saw two brothers who were fishermen — Shim‘on, known as Kefa (Simon Peter), and his brother Andrew — throwing their net into the lake. Yeshua said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men!”
At once they left their nets and went with him. Matthew 4:18-20 CJB
As he walked beside Lake Kinneret, he saw Shim‘on and Andrew, Shim‘on’s brother, casting a net into the lake; for they were fishermen. Yeshua said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you into fishers for men!”
At once they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-28 CJB
Andrew had been one of the two disciples of Yochanan the Immerser who were the first followers of Yeshua. He had been quick to find his brother Shim’on and take him to Yeshua. They had already been with Yeshua at His immersion, then the wedding in Cana where His first miracle was performed, then down to Jerusalem where He cleansed the temple in preparation for Passover, then immersing multitudes in Judea, then the surprise journey to Jacob’s Well in the heart of Samaria, then back up to Cana where He had healed the official’s son with just a word and they had returned with that official to Capernaum to see for themselves the miracle which had taken place. Now they had heard Yeshua preaching and teaching in their synagogue every Shabbat and seen the respect He commanded there as He spoke with an authority none here had seen before. So, theirs was not a rash, impulsive decision. Every conversation they’d had during the long hours of fishing through the night had been about this man, this teacher, this messiah.
Now it was Yeshua who sort them out and specifically called them to be His talmidim. Something new was taking place, and a greater level of commitment would be required.
During His weeks dwelling in Capernaum and teaching them in the synagogue on their Sabbaths, Yeshua had also noticed another set of brothers. There is no record of these two having ever followed Yochanan the Immerser, nor been with Yeshua to see His miracles before now.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers — Ya’akov Ben-Zavdai (James, son of Zebedee) and Yochanan (John) his brother — in the boat with their father Zavdai (Zebedee), repairing their nets; and he called them. At once they left the boat and their father and went with Yeshua. Matthew 4:21-22 CJB
Going on a little farther, he saw Ya‘akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan, his brother, in their boat, repairing their nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zavdai in the boat with the hired men and went after Yeshua. Mark 1:19-20 CJB
From the gospel accounts of the women at the cross, it has been suggested by some that Yeshua’s mother was a sister of their mother, offering the intriguing possibility that these two young men, Ya‘akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan, were cousins of the Messiah. We soon learn that they were fishing partners with Andrew and Shim‘on, so these four young men were used to working with one another.
It has been suggested that Zavdai (Zebedee) was wealthy because he could afford to have hired men working for his fishing business, but any small business owner knows that having employees does not necessarily make one wealthy. Anyway, Zavdai did have the skills to employ others to work with him and keep his fishing business going when these two sons left to follow Yeshua. In Jewish society it was considered a great honour to have a respected rabbi ask your son to follow him, and to have two sons called upon by a rabbi was a double blessing, even if it made running the family business more difficult.
Preaching with authority & deliverance power
The next Shabbat Yeshua had four eager talmidim with Him when he entered the synagogue in Capernaum. This time not only did Yeshua read the Torah and teach with authority, He exercised that authority in setting a man free:
They entered K’far-Nachum (Capernaum), and on Shabbat Yeshua went into the synagogue and began teaching. They were amazed at the way he taught, for he did not instruct them like the Torah-teachers but as one who had authority Himself.
In their synagogue just then was a man with an unclean spirit in him, who shouted, “What do you want with us, Yeshua from Natzeret? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”
But Yeshua rebuked the unclean spirit, “Be quiet and come out of him!”
Throwing the man into a convulsion, it gave a loud shriek and came out of him.
They were all so astounded that they began asking each other, “What is this? A new teaching, one with authority behind it! He gives orders even to the unclean spirits, and they obey him!”
And the news about him spread quickly through the whole region of the Galil (Galilee). Mark 1:21-28 CJB
In the synagogue there was a man who had an unclean demonic spirit, who shouted in a loud voice, “Yaah! What do you want with us, Yeshua from Natzeret? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”
But Yeshua rebuked it: “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
The demonic spirit threw the man down in the middle of the crowd and came out of him, having done him no harm.
They were all astounded and said to one another, “What kind of teaching is this? Why, He gives orders with power and authority to the unclean spirits, and they come out!”
And reports about Him went out through the whole surrounding district. Luke 4:33-37 CJB
Yeshua healed all brought to Him…
Everything was now in order for this fresh and powerful re-start of Yeshua’s ministry. One miraculous deliverance and the word went out. Soon He would be inundated with those needing healing.
First, Yeshua returned to the home of one of his disciples, Shim‘on Kefa (Simon Peter), because Shim‘on’s mother-in-law had been too unwell to come to synagogue. Shim‘on was the only one of the twelve whom Yeshua would choose who is recorded as being old enough to already be married and old enough to have to pay the temple tax of one-half shekel per year for every Jew over 20yo.
They left the synagogue and went with Ya‘akov (James) and Yochanan (John) to the home of Shim‘on and Andrew. Shim‘on’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever, and they told Yeshua about her. He came, took her by the hand and lifted her onto her feet. The fever left her, and she began helping them. Mark 1:29-31 CJB
And having risen out of the synagogue, he entered into the house of Simon, and the mother-in-law of Simon was pressed with a great fever, and they did ask him about her, and having stood over her, he rebuked the fever, and it left her, and presently, having risen, she was ministering to them. Luke 4:38-39 YLT
The moment the Sabbath had come to an end that evening, and they were free to travel and to carry those too afflicted to walk, the people of Capernaum brought to Yeshua everyone who needed healing.
That evening after sundown, they brought to Yeshua all who were ill or held in the power of demons, and the whole town came crowding around the door. He healed many who were ill with various diseases and expelled many demons, but he did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who he was. Mark 1:32-34 CJB
After sunset, all those who had people sick with various diseases brought them to Yeshua, and he put his hands on each one of them and healed them; also demons came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But, rebuking them, he did not permit them to say that they knew he was the Messiah. Luke 4:40-41 CJB
Mark writes that Yeshua healed many who were ill and expelled many demons. Luke is more emphatic, stating that everyone whom they brought to Yeshua this evening was healed. There were no exceptions. Not everyone who was sick was also afflicted by demons, but many of them were and Yeshua delivered every one of those as part of His healing of them. Whereas Yeshua had quite openly spoken of being the Messiah before, now He was avoiding any explicit reference to such and would not even let the demons make it known. He had no need for other’s testimony about Him, the testimony of His Father sufficed.
On the road in the Father’s will…
The people of Capernaum, like most peoples, loved seeing miracles and having their needs met. It was wonderful and exciting. It was healing and liberating. It was encouraging and affirming. They wanted Yeshua to stay and keep doing miracles for them, to stay and keep meeting their needs. While He was moved with compassion for people, He refused to be bound by their expectations – it was His Father’s business that Yeshua was about, and to keep in touch with what that was He kept going off to lonely places to pray.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Yeshua got up, left, went away to a lonely spot and stayed there praying. But Shim‘on and those with him went after him; and when they found him, they said, “Everybody is looking for you.”
He answered, “Let’s go somewhere else — to the other villages around here. I have to proclaim the message there too — in fact this is why I came out.”
So he travelled all through the Galil, preaching in their synagogues and expelling demons. Mark 1:35-39 CJB
When day had come, he left and went away to a lonely spot. The people looked for him, came to him and would have kept him from leaving them. But he said to them,
“I must announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the other towns too — this is why I was sent.”
He also spent time preaching in the synagogues of Y’hudah (Judah – some versions say Galilee). Luke 4:42-44 CJB
It was summer, the dry season, as Yeshua left Capernaum with His Talmidim to teach and preach in the surrounding areas. The wheat harvest had been brought in and now the vines were being tended.
1. Alford, Henry. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary Luke 4. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: 1st December 2019.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/luke-4.html.
2. Ritmeyer, Leen. The Synagogue of Capernaum in which Jesus taught – was it black or white? Ritmeyer Archaeological Design. [Online] 15 March 2018. [Cited: 7th November 2019.] https://www.ritmeyer.com/2018/03/15/the-synagogue-of-capernaum-in-which-jesus-taught/.
3. Pendleton, J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Jesus’ Temporary Residence at Capernaum. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: 7th November 2019.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/jesus-temporary-residence-at-capernaum.html.
4. Shea, Mark. Land of Zebulun, Land of Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles. Patheos. [Online] 27th January 2014. [Cited: 7th November 2019.] https://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2014/01/land-of-zebulun-land-of-naphtali-galilee-of-the-gentiles.html.
5. France, R.T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids : Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007. 978-0-8028-2501-8.
6. Bivin, David N. One Torah Reader, Not Seven. Jerusalem Perspective. [Online] 25th August 2012. [Cited: 7th November 2019.] https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/2787/.
7. Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Ml: : Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1886.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and some of the following questions…
* What are some of the prophesies you have noticed being fulfilled in Jesus’ life already?
* What do you think Jesus would have been doing on the other six days of each week when He was not teaching in the Capernaum synagogue? Give reasons for your answer from what the scriptures have taught us about Him thus far.
* What amazed the people in the Capernaum synagogue about Jesus’ teaching?
* What would it take for our teaching to be like Jesus’?
* What was the attitude in Jewish society towards sons being called to follow a rabbi, and how does that compare with the attitude in your society towards young men leaving the family business to study for the ministry?
* What was Jesus’ first miracle in the Capernaum synagogue, and what was the people’s response?
* Peter and his wife lived in the same house with his brother Andrew and his mother-in-law. What sorts of living arrangements are common in your culture?
* How did Jesus respond to the multitude who came seeking healing?
* What was Jesus’ response to his sudden surge in popularity in Capernaum?